They Are Not The Enemy

There is something dark covering this land. Something treacherous plaguing this country. But it isn’t what you think. It’s not relativism or feminism or even homosexuality. It’s not people questioning Biblical truth. It’s not even people questioning Christianity. It’s this “culture war” facade of Christianity that we’ve allowed to develop, that we’ve perpetuated, that makes a category for “us” and a category for “them.”

There’s been a lot of “us vs. them” talk on the Internet lately, particularly on Twitter. This idea that it’s “Christians” versus “Non-Christians” in a battle for who-knows-what now. The ridiculous notion that gay people are our enemies. The heresy, even, that God’s grace somehow makes us better than those who have yet to experience it. No, we don’t say it. But as Magneto said, “No one ever talks about it. They just do it.”

I try to use wisdom and discernment when I address issues like this, and I’ve tried to stay out of this one because I want this to be a place that is more about gospel than controversy. I want people who come here to come because they want to read Truth instead of coming to get another perspective on the latest Evangelical scandal. I was content to stay out of it.

Then I saw this…

The only problem with this is the entirety of the Bible. Where in Scripture do we see that we should not appreciate the work of a non-Christian? Is there anywhere in Scripture that states that only a Christ follower can see truth? Please, is there anywhere in the whole Bible, taken in the context of the whole Bible, that says that the ability to understand and see beauty and truth are removed from those who don’t follow Christ?

No. There’s not

Now, what you will find is places like Proverbs 3:19 where it talks about God’s wisdom and knowledge being used during, and poured into, creation, ordering it a certain way and making some things true and others false. So, isn’t the secular scientist, even the atheist, digging deep into the natural revelation of God when he does his work? Isn’t he proclaiming how God ordered the universe as he presents his findings, if he has indeed been true to science? Isn’t the secular musician displaying a type of God’s beauty when they play? We may object to specific lyrics, but can’t we at least see the talent God gave them to rhyme, to sing, and to perform? All truth is God’s truth, even if discovered or displayed by a person who denies God.

More than that, it comes down to the fact that this culture-war Christianity we have allowed to take place not only betrays a misunderstanding of the non-believer’s ability to see truth and this be seen as a good thing, it also betrays a misunderstanding of who are enemy really is.

Ephesians 6:12-12 ESV (emphasis mine)
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.

Yes, Scripture tells us that those who hate the Light of Christ and want to live in darkness will hate us. They will declare us enemies of their freedoms, of their lifestyles, and of tolerance. Those who wish to remain in darkness will declare the children of Light as their enemies, and they will persecute us. It’s all over the New Testament. It’s not a possibility, it’s a promise. It happened in the first century church and it’s happening now.

But, if you’ll notice, the Bible doesn’t give us an option to perpetuate that “us vs. them” culture that they have created. They will be aggressive. What is our response? Preach the gospel. Proclaim the truth and glory of God in Christ Jesus. Shout from the rooftops the love of God for His enemies. Debunk the myth that there is an “us” and a “them” in the eyes of Christians. There is an “us,” and we all belong to it. This “us” are those desperately in need of God’s saving grace. So, we preach the gospel with our lips and our lives to make his name famous, not to preserve a cultural norm to which we’ve become accustomed.

I understand there are all kinds of facets to how a Christian stands against injustice, oppression, and darkness. Prayer, politics, and law enforcement, to name a few. Yet, if each of these is not fueled by the love of Christ, with that love being displayed toward the lost, then we’ve missed the point. If we become so caught up in changing politics and trying to push back the effects of darkness instead of making war against the demonic powers driving secular culture, we have lost sight of the kingdom of God.

If our main concerns are more about how redefining marriage creeps us out or feminism challenges male headship than trying to see through to the pain and brokenness of a person who needs healing — even Christians who would fall in these categories — then we have made an idol out of our comfort and that idol needs to be knocked down. If our love for conservative political views makes us hate the lost and broken, then I dare say we have made an idol out of our formerly conservative country, and that idol needs to fall and make way for the glory of Christ and the kingdom of God.

There is absolutely a time and need to educate Christians. But when we use online platforms to do this, we have to be aware that non-Christians are watching and reading, too. We don’t back down from truth. We don’t take a soft stance on sin. But we do take a humble position when calling others to repent. We walk honestly and authentically. We admit our faults and failures. We write like we would preach on Sunday, not like we’d turn in a paper at Seminary.

Too often, we point people to the cross from afar instead of kneeling down in front saying “Come, there’s room for you, too.”

We need to repent. God help us and give us strength.

13 responses to “They Are Not The Enemy

  1. The us vs. them comes in how society gets worked out on a practical level. The two major views are so diametrically opposed in their presuppositions that there is almost no room for compromise on the issues that truly matter.

    • The difference is in opposing the views rather than opposing the people. We don’t communicate that well enough. We communicate that we are against homosexuality and redefining marriage, but we often fail to put equal emphasis on the fact that God loves gay people and wants them to repent and be made whole and healed, just as he wants other lost people to repent and be made whole. We’ve made it more about politics than reaching the lost.

      I’m not saying that we compromise on issues. I am saying that rather than most of our focus being on speaking out against issues, maybe we should spend more time speaking God’s love and let His kindness lead us all to repentance.

      • Alex Humphrey

        I think we do differentiate fairly well most of the time. The truth is we no longer live in a society that can separate the views from the person.

        Per your homosexuality example, it doesn’t matter if God loves a homosexual and desires what’s good and holy. Neither does it matter that I love the homosexual. The only thing that matters is that we disagree on the presupposition about the rightness or wrongness of homosexuality. This the homosexual says I am hating them (not their views) regardless of the words I use or the medium of my message.

  2. As a final thought, I think your point that “rather than most of our focus being on speaking out against issues, maybe we should spend more time speaking God’s love and let His kindness lead us all to repentance” is a straw man that creates a false dichotomy. It doesn’t matter if I preach God’s kindness, Grace, Power, Mercy as long as I’m also preaching his Commands. If God calls the homosexual to repent of their homosexuality because he deems it evil and I follow the commands of God, nothing else I say or do could ever matter. I will always be hated because the person considers themselves as the view. “love” as it is defined in these circles and groups means total agreement. Anything short of that is hatred and (as per my original point) if we don’t find some presupposition middle ground this will continue to be the case. (for instance, either I would have to agree that the homosexual is ultimately defined by who he has sex with or the homosexual would have to agree with me that his homosexuality is not the most important or defining aspect of his existence; without one of these fundamental changes the conversation can never move forward)

    • I see what you’re saying, and I agree with it for the most part. I also know I’ve seen too many examples where we are content to just let people think what they want instead of correcting them. It’s one thing if someone says or writes “I love you, but what you’re doing is wrong” and they take that as hatred. It’s another if a person writes about the wrongness of homosexuality or redefining marriage without even trying to communicate the love of God toward the person. Too often, I see people citing a problem without leading to a solution, even if it’s one that would be disagreed with. I realize we can’t please everyone, and I’m not trying to.

      I think the problem is that people are trying to sway and educate culture at large and they’re doing it academically rather than the way they would actually talk to a person face to face. We’re giving facts, often times without grace. In effect, we’re giving law with no gospel. Or at least that’s the end result.

      I see an almost infinite number of blog posts and articles about how _____________ is wrong from conservative Evangelicals, but rarely do I see a post challenging us to walk into the homes of the broken and be the light of Christ that’s actually written by a conservative Evangelical. When I do see those posts, it’s written by someone more mainline or more liberal and conservatives tend to dismiss those because of Theological differences. Even if there are Theological differences, even if there are Theological errors, we’ve gotta be able to hear truth when it’s spoken. To dismiss truth when spoken by someone we disagree with is just arrogance, there’s no way around it.

      I agree that “love” isn’t “tolerance.” That’s not my issue here. My issue is that the way we are trying to combat spiritual issues comes across as combating people. Maybe it’s because most of what I’m seeing comes from people with online platforms, trying to educate outside the context of a local community. Something tells me that Thabiti wouldn’t have given a “gag reflex” sermon at his church. He also wouldn’t have gotten away with burying a half paragraph apology inside a three page defense.

      Even then, beyond the scope of homosexuality, we treat non-believers like the enemy. We treat atheists like people to be avoided or shunned instead of lovingly, thoughtfully engaged. Sure, there comes a point when you let go and don’t “cast pearls before swine.” But the main point of the blog is that we too often communicate Christianity as though it were against the lost and broken instead of FOR the lost and broken. Sure, they’ll say we hate them. But my concern is that we are more concerned about defending a conservative culture than we are really trying to reach the broken and lost.

      What if we spent more time in prayer and less time trying to fight for what makes us comfortable? What if we spent as much time teaching the Church how to reach out to gay people as we do teaching that homosexuality is wrong?

      • My follow-up question to this one would be, does every article/blog post/blog about the wrongness of a certain act require a piece that speaks about the Gospel?

        For example, if an author writes regularly about the Gospel on his blog and then has one article about the wrongness of homosexuality without expressly mentioning the Gospel (he is thus assuming you can read his other articles about the Gospel), is that inherently wrong and/or hateful?

    • Seth Sartain

      Interesting conversation, guys. To me, the ideal common presupposition in a free society from a policy standpoint would be that of liberty. In such a system, no one ideology is mandated and all are free to be practiced and attract followers based on their merits. Thoughts?

      • The tension with that, when it comes to homosexuality at least, is marriage. Primarily because the push is to redefine something that has been a religious institution much longer than it has been a state institution. They should be free to live together and receive the same benefits as married couple, as should two sisters living together, but should not be able to redefine that which is not primarily a state institution.

        With atheism and evolution, it’s going to come down to education. Christians won’t want to have to pay to have their children taught creation, and non-Christians won’t want to have their children taught creation.

        In both cases, non-Christians are going to push against us declaring us intolerant and hateful because we stand firm on these issues, but they must always be welcome in our lives, homes, and churches to hear the gospel preached and repent with us. I know that “officially” they may be welcome, but my concern is the unofficial reactions (which usually go unaddressed) and that we try to educate Christians on the rightness/wrongness of something without pointing toward grace in both cases, and without considering our own sin before we try to address the sin of others. I’m not saying we don’t address it, but that changes the posture of our heart.

      • While I like that idea, it also assumes that morality as a whole is more-or-less agreed upon by the society. For instance, a truly libertarian society means that murderers as a group should be just as free to commit murders as pacifists are to avoid them. Ultimately it’s the ideology that you prefer that decides whether you end up as a murderer or a pacifist. And while I don’t think that’s what you mean at all, the extremes are necessary before talking about the reality.

        Basically, I agree that a position that focuses on the liberty of all is better than one ruled by a single ideology (for example, I don’t think that America should be a Theocracy nor a country based upon Secularism). However, liberty has to be tempered by things like the safety of individuals and a morality. The major disagreements that happen between the two parties is the question of what hinders that safety (abortion? death penalty? christian fundamentalism?) and what morality matters the most (race differences? gay marriage? dealing with poverty?). Ultimately, the right and the left disagree fundamentally on what is right and what safety measures should be in place. They aren’t even asking the same questions.

        For instance, if I ask a conservative how the government can keep us safe, they might say a strong military and staying out of my business. However a liberal might respond with a universal healthcare system and a growth in education.

        These two ideas are answering the same question but answering completely differently. They aren’t even on the same page with what it means to be “safe” in the country. In one instance, it’s more external and in the other it’s internal.

  3. Seth Sartain

    Alex, I think in the libertarian society liberty serves as the moral foundation. In the case of murder, the victim’s liberty has been violated. In the case of abortion, the fetus’ liberty has been violated. In terms of punishment for crimes, it’s a matter of determining the extent to which one sacrifices one’s own right to liberty by encroaching on that of others- a juridical question once the foundation of liberty is in place. So I think liberty does account for the safety of individuals and morality. Given instances of discrimination, I do think the libertarian society needs the principle of equal treatment under the law.

    Don, I agree with you on the issue of same sex marriage. As far as government is concerned, individuals’ liberty and equality under the law should be respected regardless of how any religious institution defines their relationship. I also think the issue you bring up regarding education can be accounted for with libertarianism. Education should teach students to think critically and form their own beliefs. Didactic indoctrination, regardless of the views being instilled, is coercion of the mind and violates liberty.

    • Seth, my issue with redefining marriage is the undercurrent. If the government would give the same benefits to roommates, two brothers or sisters living together, or even two people in a “common law” marriage, then that’s great. Widen the benefits for everyone. I suspect, though, that the issue with redefining marriage would come up again and again because of the spiritual forces at work behind this that are striving to topple the image of Christ and the Church. It’s one thing to stand for equality and widen the gap under the eyes of the government, it’s another to blindly allow marriage to be redefined. My issue isn’t whether we fight that fight, we should. My issue is how we fight that fight. Are we fighting against the dark spiritual forces through prayer and petitioning God to stand on our behalf, or are we making enemies of those affected by the dark spiritual forces, the very people who need to be rescued from those demonic powers? There will always come a point when we have to speak publicly, and that should be done winsomely. Yes, the same sun that melts the ice hardens the clay, but too often we try to decide what is ice and what is clay.

      On education, I agree to an extent. The issue I have comes to children. Six year old kids can’t be taught to think critically the same way a sixteen year old can, and the sixteen year old not the same way the twenty-six year old. I’m not sure when the transition has to take place, but children need to be taught “this is what is right” both morally and educationally. I approach education from a Christian framework, not the other way around. Have I formed my own beliefs about Christianity? Yes, absolutely. But was that independent of the years I spent being taught that God is Creator of the Heavens and the Earth? No, it wasn’t. We can’t be blind to the need to instill what is right and good within children to serve as the foundation for how they view the world and process education.

      Your last statement bothers me. I mean, what liberty does a child have to decide what is right and wrong? What freedom does the teenager have to do as he or she pleases? The answer is “none.” I don’t have kids, but from watching and talking with parents one thing is stunningly clear: parenting (and teaching) involves forming your child’s mind. The whole idea of “train up a child” (Prov. 22:6) is one of correcting the natural paths toward which a child is bent. If you really wanted to phrase it this way, you could say that part of parenting is coercing the child into doing things differently. Not to violate their freedom, but to show them what is true freedom. This includes what parents allow their children to be exposed to in school.

      Should children be taught how to reason and think and form their own beliefs? Yes. But how do we do real science and explain how something works without going into the depths of why it is that way? How do we teach science without either leading up to something God set in motion in creation or something that is the result of evolution? How do we teach the value of human beings without it coming back to being created imago dei or simply being the highest step on the current chain of evolution? How do we teach a twelve year old to process questions that sixty years old men and women work through for years?

  4. Seth Sartain

    I think we’re on the same page with the marriage discussion, Don.

    To be clear, I haven’t been talking about parenting. You brought up public education in the context of a diverse society. There’s a difference between how parents are entitled to raise kids and how teachers are expected to educate students of differing backgrounds. I’m talking about the latter.

    I think you’re right: we shouldn’t avoid fundamental questions when educating children. Your last question about sums up how difficult that can be in practice, though. How to present complex, controversial issues to developing minds? It’s my view that artificially simplifying an issue for convenience’s sake is a disservice to students. If we teach sound reasoning and avoid indoctrination, we’ve engaged the issue without violating liberty, the basic moral principle we can all agree on. Granted, that looks different at different ages, but it can be done in developmentally appropriate ways.

    In short, schools shouldn’t teach students what to think but how to think, not give them prepackaged conclusions but strategies to responsibly arrive at their own.

    • So about the marriage topic…kidding.

      I think part of where we’re meeting minds is that we don’t teach people to think philosophically at all. At least not until college, or high school at the earliest and even then not often.

      I guess the tension is for parents who want school to affirm what they teach in the home. The Christian will want their younger children to be taught creation, and the atheist will want their children to be taught evolution, etc. My argument is that neither should have to pay for it, but both options should be available freely. Or they should both have to pay for it equally…

      In middle school and high school, I can see taking a more philosophical approach to education, teaching a child how to reason and critically think through a question, whereas in elementary school it should be more didactic to help form the foundation from which the child will learn and the worldview through which the child will approach the harder questions and problems they face in middle and high school.

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